John W. O'Brien, a former Roman Catholic parish priest who later headed the Home and Schools Program for Baltimore's public schools, died of leukemia Thursday at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 84.

The son of A. Seymour O'Brien, an attorney, and Helen Frances Kelly O'Brien, a homemaker, John William O'Brien was born in Baltimore and raised on Canterbury Road in the city's Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.


He began his studies at St. Charles Minor Seminary and continued at St. Mary's Seminary at Paca Street, where he studied philosophy from 1951 to 1953.

Then-Archbishop Lawrence J. Shehan sent Dr. O'Brien to the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium in preparation for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest in Belgium in 1957.

He began his pastoral ministry in 1957 at St. Rita Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk. He remained there until 1965, when he left to teach at the old St. Paul's Latin High School in East Baltimore.

From 1968 to 1970, he was pastor of St. Clare Roman Catholic Church in Essex. He left in 1970 to attend Catholic University of America and earned a doctorate in administration.

Dr. O'Brien left the priesthood in 1972, and that year became an English teacher of the Home and Schools Program for city public schools. He retired from the program in 1997.

In 1974, he married the former Mary Jane Healy, whom he had met while a student at Catholic University.

They lived for years on Madison Avenue before moving several years ago to the Mercy Ridge retirement community in Timonium.

Dr. O'Brien and his wife enjoyed sailing the Chesapeake Bay, skiing in Colorado and attending reunions in Louvain.

The two were communicants for nearly 50 years of Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church in Bolton Hill. He was a member of the parish council and the group CORPUS at Call to Action.

His wife died in 2015.

A Mass of Christian burial for Dr. O'Brien will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at his church, 110 W. Lafayette Ave., Baltimore.

He is survived by two brothers, Arthur Seymour "Bud" O'Brien of Pittsburgh and Tom O'Brien of Fairport, N.Y.; and many nieces and nephews.